Homemade paper
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Thread: Homemade paper

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Fayetteville, Arkansas
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    Homemade paper

    Rudimentary paper making
    Making paper from other paper is the least complicated process. Although paper can be made from a wide variety of plant fibers, this is more of a challenge since the fibers need to be cooked in an akali solution.

    So, you will need:
    A fiber source, such as:
    Paper – this can be just about any kind, but keep in mind that the better the quality of paper going in, the better the finished product will be. Be sure to remove any staples or plastic or other, non paper bits. It takes more fiber than you might think to make one sheet of paper, so get a lot.
    Dryer lint – obviously, natural fiber lint is the best
    Cotton balls or batting (must be real cotton, not synthetic)
    Cotton rags (these will be a little more labor-intensive)
    Sizing optional –examples include laundry starch, gelatin glue, such as rabbitskin glue, white glue (elmer’s type) + cornstarch. (note: sizing can be mixed in with the pulp for internal sizing, which fills and strengthens the paper, or applied later to the surface of the sheet for external sizing, which makes the paper less absorbent and better for liquid media)
    Bucket – for soaking your fiber in.

    In the drawing studio we will supply:
    Mould + Deckle + screens
    Fabric for drying

    1. Tear your paper into squares of roughly 1 inch. If using cotton fabric, also cut or tear into small squares.
    2. Put your paper, cloth, or other fiber in a bucket, cover with water, and let soak. Thinner paper, lint, and batting will hydrate very quickly; thicker paper could take an hour or more. Fabric will need to soak longer and also be boiled.
    3. Fill a tub about ½ full of water.
    4. When the fiber seems soft, place a handful in the blender along with enough water to fill it at least half full. Blend until no chunks remain. Unless you want chunks, in which case some pulp should be smooth and some chunky. Check the blade at the bottom of the blender, and remove the snarled fibers there before going on to the next batch.
    Note: if you don’t have access to a blender, you can process the fiber by beating it with a mallet or even a chunk of 2 x 4 on a hard surface, such as a wooden board, until the fibers separate. This is the old fashioned way and will result in paper with longer fibers, because you can start with much bigger pieces of paper or cloth than 1 inch if you do this.
    5. If you want internally sized paper, you can add sizing to the blender.
    6. Dump the fiber in the tub and continue blending and dumping until you have enough to pull a sheet of paper. (If you don’t have much fiber, you can float the mould in the water and pour the fiber directly in.)
    7. Swirl the pulp around so that it is suspended evenly in the water.

    8. Using either the mould + deckle, or a mould with a removable screen, slide it into the water, one edge first, level it out low in the vat, and then pull up firmly, keeping the mould level. It may take a few trials before you manage to lift a good uniform sheet of pulp out of the tub. If you aren't satisfied with a sheet, it is easy to return it to the tub, just set the pulp-covered surface of the screen flat on the surface of the water in the tub and gently wiggle it, and the pulp will resuspend itself. The thickness of the sheet is determined by the density of pulp in the tub and the depth of the mould.
    9. Let the mould drain until water stops running out. After a while, when the pulp seems set, you can tilt it to drain faster.

    The sheet comes out of the vat holding a lot of excess water. Air drying can take a long time, so typically some of the water is pressed out.
    10. Transfer the sheet to a smooth, absorbent surface, called couching (pronounced “cooching”) You lay the mould or screen pulp side down, on several sheets of fabric, (such as muslin, felt, clean canvas, non-woven interfacing, clean tea towels, old sheets, squares cut from old blankets, etc.) Blot excess water through the back of the screen with a sponge or newspaper, then either slowly peel the screen back or gently rock the mould back and slowly lift, one end at a time. If the paper isn’t releasing, lower the screen and press with your fingers to ensure that the paper has good contact with the fabric. I like to soak up some of the excess water by laying the mould on newspaper before transferring.
    11. Cover with another sheet of fabric.
    12. Continue piling up paper and fabric until you are done, then place a board on top and a weight to press the paper. A bucket of water works well as a weight. Leave overnight or for at least an hour. The paper will not dry completely in the press; you can speed the process by changing out the fabric for dry fabric and/or placing newspaper between the layers. Pressing makes the sheet smoother and stronger.
    13. Another option is to place newspaper over the second sheet of fabric, and press with your hands to remove excess water. You may need to do this a second time with more newspaper. Then, remove the top sheet, and holding by opposite corners of the bottom fabric sheet, transfer to a hard surface such as formica or masonite. Again, press gently on the fabric and peel off slowly, leaving the paper plastered to the hard surface. Leave until dry or until it starts to peel off on its own. Paper dried on a smooth surface will be more smooth than paper dried on fabric or on a screen.
    14. When the paper is nearly dry, you can iron it, if desired, for greater smoothness. You can also apply an external size at this point by sizing with spray starch and an iron, or by brushing on a gelatin size.

    15. When you are through pulling paper, pour the water out through a sieve to catch the remaining pulp. You can store this for later, or put it in your compost heap, (or the garbage, if you hate the planet) DO NOT POUR PULP DOWN THE DRAIN OR YOU WILL HAVE A CLOGGED SINK.
    16. Wet pulp is much easier to remove than dry pulp, so clean your screens, sieves, and buckets now.

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